You probably spotted Mel Smith in the photo below, but who on earth is that rather rotund, older woman to his right? is pleased to bring you first-look character photographs of the principals in the upcoming West End premiere of hit Broadway musical Hairspray, in which Smith is Wilbur Turnblad, father to dance-mad geeky teen Tracy, played by newcomer Leanne Jones, and husband to larger-than-life Edna Turnblad, played by a completely unrecognisable Michael Ball in drag (See News, 18 Jul 2007).

Hairspray receives its West End premiere at the Shaftesbury Theatre on 30 October 2007 (previews from 11 October). The musical opened in August 2002 at Broadway’s Neil Simon Theater, where it’s still running, and went on to win eight 2003 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Based on John Waters' cult retro 1988 film and set in 1960s Baltimore, it tells the story of Tracy, who finds celebrity on a TV dance programme. Can she get the guy and still have time to change the world?

The musical has a book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan, with music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Scott Whitman and Shaiman. It’s directed by Jack O'Brien and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell. The 2007 film of the musical, starring John Travolta as Edna, is still playing at UK cinemas and is due for release on DVD this year.

Other names in the cast of the London stage production are Tracie Bennett, best known to TV fans from Coronation Street, who will play the role of vicious Velma Von Tussle, Rachel Wooding (Amber Von Tussle), Paul Manuel (host Corny Collins), Adrian Hansel (Seaweed), Johnnie Fiori (Motormouth Mabel) and Any Dream Will Do’s Ben Ellis (Link Larkin).

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Photos: Jason Bell